άσθμαWhat is asthma?

Asthma is a condition which causes difficulty in breathing. It is not always accompanied by symptoms. However, when symptoms occur, they can be terrifying. Exacerbations of asthma are related with the airways which become narrow and inflamed. Asthma can affect various members within a family.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Asthma symptoms can include:

  • Wheezing in the chest or noisy breathing
  • Cough
  • Feeling chest tightness
  • Breathlessness

Symptoms can appear every day, every week or less often. Can range from mild to severe. Although an asthma exacerbation can lead to death, today with the current treatment, this phenomenon is not common.

Is there a test for the diagnosis of asthma?

Yes. Your doctor will ask you some questions about your symptoms and your medical history and then will ask you to perform a breath test to investigate whether your lungs are working properly.

How is asthma treated?

Asthma is treated with various types of drugs. These can be spray that patient inhales, liquids or pills. Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment depending on your symptoms and severity of asthma. The asthma medications are working with one of the following 2 ways:

  1. Drugs that cause immediate relief of symptoms. They usually need 5 to 15 minutes to stop the symptoms. Almost everyone who has a history of asthma, carries everywhere an immediate relief medication. Patients use various drugs when they have their asthma symptoms. Most of these drugs need to be taken 1 or 2 times a week or less. However, if symptoms worsen, you need more medication doses and substantially more frequent use. Some patients after taking these drugs may feel shaky.
  2. Regulating medicines that cause long term regulation of asthma. These control asthma symptoms over time. Patients with frequent symptoms usually take these drugs 1-2 times a day. It is very important for a patient to take medications exactly as the doctor told him and use the right technique. You may sometimes need to take your medication several times during the same day. You may also have the feeling that the drugs do not act, but this does not mean that someone is not helped using the pharmaceutical treatment. Asthma not treated with proper treatment can cause permanent problems in the respiratory system. Moreover, if the use of medications is not proper, the symptoms may worsen or a treatment in a hospital or clinic is needed.

What is the action plan for asthma?

The action plan for asthma is essentially a list of instructions that tell the following:

  • What medicine to take every day at home
  • What medications to take in the event of worsening asthma
  • When to look for an ambulance for transport to the emergency department.

If you have frequent or severe asthma symptoms, your doctor may recommend you a plan of action. So you and your doctor will work together as a team for developing an appropriate action plan according to your own needs and preferences. As a part of this plan, you may need a small instrument called a flow meter, which you can use to monitor changes in your breathing at home or even at work. Your doctor will show you the proper use of both the flowmeter and inhalers.

Do I  need to be assessed by my doctor?

Yes. Especially if your symptoms persist or are very severe, or do not improve despite the use of reliever medication,  you  need assessment most likely in the emergency department. If you are receiving daily therapy you need to be monitored by your doctor at least every 6 months.

Can I prevent my asthma symptoms?

Yes. You can avoid anything that causes you asthma or makes your symptoms worsen. These triggers of asthma may be different aeroallergens, dust, fungi, animals such as dogs and cats, flowers, pollen, cigarette smoke, exercise, infections and stress. If you know what deteriorates your asthma try to avoid any contact with it as much as possible. If you can not avoid an agent, talk to your doctor to find an alternative. For example, exercise can be helpful for many asthmatic. However, you may need to take an extra dose of reliever medication before exercice in order to avoid breathing difficulty after exercise.

What happens if an asthmatic wants to get pregnant?

If you intend to become pregnant, talk to your doctor and especially discuss with him how you can control your asthma during the months of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Keepin your asthma well controlled is very important for your health and your child. Most asthma medications are safe during pregnancy.